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Respecting Internet sovereignty vital to network security

Author  :  Wang Peng     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2017-02-04

China’s top Internet regulator released a cyberspace security strategy on Dec. 27, 2016, stating that the Chinese government will push for a peaceful, secure, open, cooperative and orderly cyberspace environment. In the 15-page strategy released by the Cyberspace Administration of China, respect for cyberspace sovereignty is the first principle.

Cyberspace sovereignty is the extension and manifestation of national sovereignty in cyberspace. Internally, it refers to a country’s right to independently develop, supervise and manage domestic Internet affairs. Externally, it involves protecting the domestic Internet from outside invasion and attack. However, some countries still resist recognizing this concept.

Western countries led by the Unites States insist that there should be no boundary for developing the Internet. They argue that cyberspace is global public space that no country should dominate and control. Actually, this position is intended to justify their Internet hegemony and the practice of intervening in the internal affairs of other countries or endangering their safety. They adopt double standards.

Though some countries refuse to accept the concept of cyberspace sovereignty, in practice— almost without exception—they have implemented strict policies for domestic Internet governance. China and other developing countries believe that though the Internet has no boundaries, infrastructure, users and Internet companies all have nationalities. They are a nation’s important strategic resources, so it is reasonable for them to be managed and protected by their home country.

The concept of cyberspace sovereignty forms the core of China’s overall strategy for cyber-security and development. As early as November 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the first World Internet Conference that, based on mutual respect and trust, China is willing to cooperate with other countries to build a multilateral, democratic and transparent global Internet governance system.

Currently, the concept of Internet hegemony, which is in conflict with cyberspace sovereignty, still exists in the world. Its establishment and existence relies on the monopoly of strategic Internet resources by Western powers. For example, there are now 13 root servers in the world, and 10 are located in the United States. All the root servers now are managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which was authorized by the US government. ICANN was formed to assume responsibility for the allocation and management of domain names, IP addresses, protocols and root servers.

Advantages in basic technologies enable some Western countries to utilize the right to manage the Internet to realize their political and strategic aims while at the same time creating huge security concerns for and bringing about economic losses to some other countries. Therefore, we should accelerate the development of Internet technology while promoting the concept of cyberspace sovereignty to safeguard the legal interests of countries in cyberspace.

China always upholds cyberspace sovereignty and would like to cooperate with the international community to make global cyberspace governance more reasonable and fair and to reflect the wishes and interests of the majority of countries in a more balanced way. We can use any opportunity, including the World Internet Conference, to publicize the concept and make it a principle in moral as well as practical domains.

Only by implementing the concept of cyberspace sovereignty, can countries—regardless of their size and strength— have their state sovereignty, national security, social stability and information security respected and safeguarded. Under this principle, countries can strengthen international cooperation to resist the arms race and prevent conflicts in cyberspace as well as jointly combat cybercrimes.

Cyberspace sovereignty will not suffer any infringement. China has the most Internet users. Therefore, cyberspace safety is not only essential for China’s own interests but also vital for maintaining a peaceful world.


Wang Peng is from the China Institute at Fudan University.

Editor: Yu Hui

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